1. If Antarctica’s ice sheets melted, the worlds oceans would rise by 60 to 65 metres (200 – 210ft) –everywhere.
2. Antarctica is pushed into the earth by the weight of its ice sheets If they melted, it would “spring back” about 500m (1 625 ft). It would do this very slowly taking about 10,000 years to do so. Scotland and Scandinavia are still rebounding today after the last ice age – at the rate of half a meter a century in the Northern Baltic – the fastest place.
3. Antarctica is the best place in the world to find meteorites. Dark meteorites show up against the white expanse of ice and snow and don’t get covered by vegetation. In some places, the way the ice flows concentrates meteorites there. The ice makes them gather in one place.
4. The cold and dry conditions in the “Dry Valleys” region of Antarctica are so close to those on Mars that NASA did testing there for the Viking mission. It has not rained in the dry valleys for at least 2 million years.
5. One of the biggest icebergs ever (possibly the biggest iceberg ever) broke free from the Ross ice shelf in Antarctica in 2000.
It was 295km (183 miles) long and 37km (23 miles) wide, with a surface area of 11,000 sq km (4,250 square miles) above water – and 10 times bigger below. It’s similar in size to The Gambia, Qatar, The Bahamas, or Connecticut.
6. It has been estimated that during the feeding season in Antarctica, a full grown blue whale eats about4 million krill per day (krill are small shrimp-like creatures), that’s 3600 kg or 4 tons – every day for 6 months. Having laid down a layer of fat from this feeding activity in Antarctica, they then starve for several months.
This daily intake would feed a human for about 4 years! If you could stomach it. Krill may be nutritious but they’re not very nice as people food – which is lucky for the whales!
7. Since the Antarctic convergence arose about 20 million years ago, there has been very little exchange of fish or other marine life in either direction. This means that fish have lived in their side of the ocean and have not crossed over to their neighbours side.
Antarctic fish have lived at between +2°C and -2°C for 5 million years (-2°C is the freezing point of sea water, below zero because of the salt). They are therefore the best cold adapted animals that there are on the planet – now or ever.
8. A domestic deep freeze runs at about -20°C. The mean summer temperature on the great East Antarctica icecap is -30°C and mean winter temperature around -60°C. That’s a lot colder than your freezer!
The lowest ever temperature recorded was at the Russian Vostok station. It was – 89.6°C
9. When the Antarctic sea-ice begins to expand at the beginning of winter, it advances by around 40,000 square miles (100,000 square kilometres) per day, and eventually doubles the size of Antarctica, adding up to an extra 20 million square kilometres of ice around the land mass.
That’s one and a half USA’s, two Australia’s or 50 UK’s worth of ice area that forms, then breaks up and melts each year.
10. Snow falling at the South Pole takes about 100 000 years to “flow” to the coast of Antarcticabefore it drops off the end as part of an iceberg.
11. The Antarctic ice cap has 29 million cubic kilometres of ice. This is 90% of all the ice on the planet and between 60 and 70 % of all of the world’s fresh water.
Only about 0.4 percent of Antarctica is not covered by ice.
12. Antarctica has a peculiar group of fish called the ice fish. These have no red pigment – haemoglobin – in their blood to carry oxygen around. They get by perfectly well without it because the temperature is so low and oxygen dissolves better in cold temperatures. They just have a larger volume of clear blood instead and this gives them an unusually ghostly white colour, particularly their gills.
Recent research on the ice fish ahs shown that their DNA has been damaged by high levels of ultra violet light coming from the ozone hole. They have less pigment to stop the UV getting through.
Many other Antarctic sea creatures including fish have antifreeze in their blood so they don’t accidentally get frozen solid!
13. The largest land animal in Antarctica is an insect, a wingless midge, Belgica antarctica, less than 1.3cm (0.5in) long. There are no flying insects (they’d get blown away), just shiny black springtails that hop like fleas and tend to live among penguin colonies.
14. Samples of ice known as ice cores are regularly drilled through the ice in Antarctica by scientists. They are removed as a long cylinder of ice that gives an indication of the past going back tens of thousands of years. The properties of the ice, of dust trapped in the ice, and even of air bubbles trapped in the ice give valuable information about the earth’s climate at various times in the past.
15. In 1981 a swarm of krill was tracked by US scientists that was estimated at being up to 10 million tonnes of krill! This is the equivalent of about 143 million people (at an average of 70kg each) or more than the entire populations of the UK and Germany combined ( and wandering around in a group!)
16. Antarctica is the only continent with no indigenous species of ants.
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